As we all know, the older we get, the faster time flies by. Life gets a bit more hectic and soon we find ourselves caught up with every day tasks and mundane routines that before you know it, you begin to loose sight of some of the goals and dreams you had set out to achieve. I am not the first person it has happened to, and certainly won’t be the last. It has and will happen to all of us from time to time.
Five years ago, I began this blog with the intentions to motivate, educate, and inspire others. This past year and a half I got a bit off track. I have been busy working, hitting the gym, working on big projects around the house, enjoying some of my other hobbies, working on my photography and of course, spending time with my family and friends. I most certainly lost track of writing to all of you – my audience. Does that mean I have given up on my goal and will give up on continuing on with my blog, settling on the fact that I failed at writing?! Most certainly not! Like many goals, obstacles may be faced and some adjustments to the original plan in achieving those original goals needs to be made.
So, here I am, starting once again. Getting back on track to motivate you to aim for your goals and dreams, educate you on what I have learned over the years about heart health through my own experiences as a patient and caregiver, and to inspire you to keep going when you face those seemingly unbearable challenges.
“The aches, the pains, the muscle fatigue…no doubt I would end up sore. Breathing heavy, buckets of sweat dripping from my body, can’t wait to go back for more.”
Training away on the elliptical machine the other day, it hit me – 6 months of working out with my trainer Matt at the gym and I’m still going strong. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way and a few fattening holiday meals to contend with, but overall, I am making progress as I continue to move forward, getting fit, loosing weight, and working towards a happier heart.
At the beginning, workouts were tough and I often wondered to myself how I was ever going to make it through a singe day, let alone multiple workouts in a single week. My body ached and my muscles were sore – Matt had me working out areas I had probably never worked out before. As many other gym goers would likely agree, leg days were (and still are) the worst-especially the day or two following. Everyday tasks, like sitting down in a chair, walking down a flight of stairs – heck, even sitting down to go to the bathroom were a huge challenge – you literally want to laugh and cry at the same time! What in the world was my trainer trying to do to me?! Is the pain unbearable? No. Uncomfortable? Heck yeah! But the pain does pass and it’s back to the gym to do it all over again.
I could have easily thrown in the towel so many times and said “forget this!” when things
got a little hard. But I didn’t, not this time. There were days I was exhausted after work, but still, I showed up. I’m sure there were plenty of times I grumbled and groaned, pissed and moaned, but with his upbeat and encouraging attitude, Matt kept me moving along. Then there were (and still are) those times I tend not to speak up, times when I may try to push myself a little too hard…a sudden twinge of pain or discomfort and I probably should speak up, but I don’t. Times when I say I’m fine, but I think Matt is beginning to learn when I’m full of it and calls my bluff.
So to Matt, my trainer, a huge thank you for getting me back on track and helping me to work towards a fitter lifestyle. For being a great teacher and sharing your knowledge, even when you may think I might not be paying attention to what you are talking about. Thank you for pushing me to work a little harder when I needed to and not so much during those times I shouldn’t. And most importantly, for keeping me motivated as I work towards better health. Continue to be a positive influence to myself and others as you help us to achieve our personal goals.
“Push harder, push farther – push myself to the limit. Get stronger, get fitter, create a better me!”
Like so many others attempting to tackle the weight loss battle, I was no different, trying new diets, buying DVD’s and equipment to work out at home, reading countless articles on the “perfect exercises” and what foods to eat to stay healthy. I joined gyms and of course, made a New Year’s Resolution to get back into shape every single year. Stubborn as a mule, I always thought I could tackle this battle myself. Jumping in head first, making drastic changes and pushing too hard, it was easy to get discouraged and discouraged I did! As an individual with a heart condition, doctors reminded me numerous times that I had to be careful how and what I did because I could actually end up doing more harm then good. I finally decided late this summer that it was time to stop trying it all on my own – it was time to hire someone who could give me a hand. So, while I haven’t set much time aside over the past few months to keep up with my blog, I can say I have been busy hitting the gym after work, training with my new trainer.
Some individuals I have spoken with since beginning this journey insist that hiring a personal trainer simply costs too much money. These days money is spent on the latest electronics, the newest cell phones, more advanced cars, buying new clothes of the latest fashion or even just eating out multiple times a week. So many spend a fortune on material things without even batting an eye, but find it hard to spend money in order to maintain good health. For me, I simply didn’t want to spend the extra money – period! But then I finally realized…I was already wasting money on things that just weren’t working. Hiring a personal trainer would be an investment, but an investment that I decided was entirely worth making. I’ve spent thousands of dollars visiting doctors to help keep me healthy, why not visit a trainer and spend money for the same reason?!
The next step I had to make was to find myself a personal trainer. I was already a member at the local gym, so obviously I started my search there. I was pleasantly surprised when I met Matt, head of PT, who actually became my personal trainer. With his basketball physique and bubbly personality, always greeting his clients with a smile and a positive attitude, he’s been a great motivator and teacher whom I’ve learned a lot from over the past few months as I’ve worked with him to get myself back on track. Baby steps is what it takes. Sure, there are some days that are harder than others, and my muscles burn with fatigue, but in the end it is entirely worth it!! I’m loosing weight, feeling great and getting back to a fitter lifestyle and my heart is finally loving it!
Sometimes it takes asking someone else for help and that is what I did. Some battles can’t be fought on our own…sometimes we need someone else to help us fight, someone who knows the weapons that will help us win.
Did you ever notice, as a teen, we were eager to get away from our parents so that we could go out and spend more time having fun with our friends? As young adults, we find that we couldn’t wait to move away so that we could venture out into the world on our own. Eventually, we began to take on more responsibilities – college, careers, buying homes, and starting our own family. We drifted away from mom and dad, only to realize that when we became parents ourselves that we wanted to go back and spend time with them once again. It is at this point we realize how important every moment we get to spend with our parents truly is. These moments we share with them, we begin to cherish more as they often become fewer and farther between.
“Love your Parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget that they are also growing old.” ~unknown
I am no different than anyone else; I followed that same path and have come to that same conclusion. I often get busy living life day to day, being a mom, working, and taking care of my own responsibilities that I look forward to those few times just dad and I get to spend together.
As a cardiac patient, doctor and hospital visits are inevitable. As annoying as they may be, often times sitting and waiting to see doctors or waiting to have tests performed, it is just one of those things that I understand will always be a part of my life. Because of my condition, I visit a specific heart clinic, located in a larger hospital about an hours drive from my home. These visits are probably the most important visits I have and often the most stressful and exhausting. As you can imagine, these days can be long and tiresome. I typically drive myself, but to these specific visits, my father drives instead. It is a route he frequented on so many occasions, taking my mom to the same hospital and ironically to the same doctors as well. Already a bundle of nerves before going, and being tired afterwards, to drive on a busy highway would certainly be a recipe for a disaster, therefore, it is dad who becomes my taxi.
Many may find these types of days as a disruption to their daily life, but ironically, even when I get not-so-good news from the doctors during these visits, these days are still my favorite – because these are the days my father and I have our daddy-daughter dates. Just dad and I enjoying our time together – First, the trip to the hospital to see the doctors, followed by lunch and then a trip to Barnes and Nobel. No doubt, there is plenty of time to talk during the long drives, while waiting in the waiting room, or while we eat lunch. Since neither of us really spend a lot of time talking over the phone, these are definitely the perfect times for us to have our own heart-to-heart talks with each other. We talk about so many things, but what i like most is that it is the one time he and I will talk about mom and in our own ways, I think it helps us to both deal with the situation I face with my own heart problems as well as dealing with the loss of her. I think it also helps dad to still be able to take care of his “little girl” as he watches me face many of the same things that my mom did. Although scary for him I’m sure, I think he feels better being with me during these important visits rather than hearing about them afterwards.
So to my dad on this Fathers Day I’d like to say Thank You for those special moments we have during our daddy-daughter dates and for always looking out for me – your little Squirt!! I’m sure it can’t be easy to watch your little girl go through the same things mom did, but I am sure glad that I have a dad like you to be by my side as I face what has become my fate.
It goes without saying, when a young life has ended, a midst of the grieving, there is often a question of why that young life was cut short. Whether it’s a child or even a young adult, it leaves us puzzled and wondering why these “bad things (death)” happen to such young/good people; as if death was a punishment that they didn’t deserve.
This year, towards the end of our family vacation, I received a rather unexpected message from my cousins girlfriend, Becca – news that certainly caught me off guard and shook me to the core. My cousin Jason, who was just a year younger than I and suffering from the same heart condition as myself, had passed away in her arms just a few hours before. I couldn’t believe it – I still can’t believe it. His defibrillator, which was working correctly and trying desperately to restart his heart was unable to do so. No doubt, this began a series of “What if’s?” which started to roll through my mind. What if my defibrillator didn’t work properly? What if my heart goes into a funny rhythm that the defibrillator can’t get me out of? What if it didn’t work at all? What if I fell asleep and never woke up? Question upon question continued to roll through my mind. These were soon replaced with, Why did Jason have to die so young?, How come I’m still alive and Jason isn’t?
Jason was an honest, generous, and very caring man who had very much the same positive attitude and outlook on life as I did. When we were toddlers, we even looked so much alike, we probably could have passed as twins. We were a couple of curly, blond-haired, blue-eyed cuties! As adults, we shared nearly the same exact heart condition, going to doctors to have many of the same tests performed, taking the same medications, and even having the same type of implants put in to save our lives. With the invention of social networking, we were able to keep in contact with one another even better, often discussing how our appointments went with our cardiologists and how our hearts were doing, perhaps hoping that we could make each others condition better in some sort of way.
During the funeral, my heart sank for Becca. I could not even imagine what it would be like to lose the one you love, holding them tight as their life quickly slipped away. No doubt that Becca was likely asking the same question, Why did Jason have to die? Jason and Becca had not yet married but they shared their lives with one another and with God as well as with Beccas three children for over 7 years. So for all intent and purposes, the only thing that made them different from any married couple was essentially a piece of paper. Jason was an incredible father figure, raising Becca’s kids as if they were his very own. He had a big heart and the kids loved him.
With Jason’s passing, I was reminded how precious life is how we never truly know when “our time” is going to be, so we must cherish those special moment’s with those that we love, no matter how brief those moments may be. A quick visit, a card, even a quick phone call just to say hello – its important to make time for those brief moments rather than allowing them to pass because we have convinced ourselves that we don’t have time to do them.
I think everything happens for a reason and there is a reason that Jason had to pass so young. Perhaps God had a bigger plan for Jason up in heaven while he still has other plans for those of us still here on earth. Some of us are destined to have health aliments, some of us are meant to be advocates and fight for cures and represent others facing the same fate. Some of us are meant to motivate and encourage others to live a happier, healthier life. Some of us are meant to fight the big fights to teach others what being strong truly means. Some of us were meant to pass young to help others understand the meaning of love after a loss or to bring a troubled family closer together. Regardless of the reasons, one thing is for sure…life is a gift so we should live life to the fullest, overcome the obstacles we may face, and never take the life we are given for granted because you never know when our time here on earth will be over.
Recently, while cleaning out my closet, I decided it was time to stop wearing the old frocks from my collection and shop for some new workout clothes to exercise and sweat in – and that included buying a few new sports bras as well. It’s not like I hadn’t shopped for bras before; I had done it numerous times in the past. How long could it possibly take to find the right sports bra?! And so the hunt was on….and what a hunt it turned out to be!
Since having my defibrillator put in, bra shopping had become an even bigger pain – literally. With it located under my collar bone and tucked in just above my left breast, finding a comfortable bra had become a huge challenge. It never failed; some straps rubbed the scar the wrong way, lace made it itch. In most cases, just moving the breast muscle around too much or having it push the defibrillator up against my skin would cause some serious discomfort.
One store, two stores, three stores, and more!! Exhaustion soon set in and frustration would ensue. It’s no wonder husbands or significant others tend not to enjoy the “thrill” of bra shopping with the ones they love. Amazing how difficult finding the best fitting sports bra was turning out to be. Far too many to choose from! You’ve got one’s with thin straps, ones with thick straps, one’s with fancy decorations, one’s without; under-wire, no wire, extra padding, no padding, push up, or flatten out – the choices seemed endless. Not to mention the rainbow of colors and variety of patterns each style of bra came in. Whatever happened to only having a few items to choose from? I so longed for those days when you didn’t have an overwhelming array to choose from.
Try on, take off. Try on, take off……the cycle continued on for what seemed like an eternity. Twisting and contorting my arms to fasten the clasps in back. Others were yanked and pulled and done up in front. It didn’t take long for anxiety to creep up and the desire to yank the defibrillator from my chest to set in. I was beginning to remember how much I disliked these sorts of shopping trips. Flashbacks of past bra shopping experiences reminded me of all the times I had spent in stores, hunting and searching for the perfect one and how much discomfort I would be in after trying on so many.
Hours passed and I was at my wits end with no potential keepers in sight. I was tired, sore, and not to mention, feeling a bit discouraged. I was annoyed that I had this foreign object in my chest, making an already irritating shopping trip even worse. Ready to give up and walk out of the store, something caught my eye. Could it be? Did I just find the perfect bra? I decided to give the fitting room one last chance. In I went, closing the door behind me and feeling a bit of hope begin to brighten my day. I tried it on and it fit! Perfectly!! What a relief!!! I ran back to the rack and found a few more in my size. A smile began to stretch from ear to ear.
The anxiety quickly subsided as I walked to the register to pay for my purchases. Waiting in line, I reminded myself that as painful and irritating of an experience bra shopping turned out to be, this defibrillator that I wanted so much to rip out of my chest had a purpose and was implanted to save my life. Enduring some temporary discomfort was far better than the alternative of not being here at all. As Lance Armstrong said, Pain is temporary to which I reply, feeling some pain is better than feeling no pain at all.
Ok, so I have certainly been slack in the blog posting department these past few months…alright, so it has been more like 6 months since my last post. College certainly had it’s benefits, but I think I about fried my brain with all the writing I had to do over the two years I was in. Once I graduated, I was ecstatic that I no longer had papers to write, articles to critique, discussion groups to participate in or exams to complete. I had plenty of ideas for different posts and had every intention to write, but was constantly finding myself hitting a wall and words just weren’t flowing as easily as I was hoping when I sat down in front of my laptop. So, I took a much needed break from writing. I guess that sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time.
Since it is a New Year, what better time to start up again! So what is in store for my blog this year? Like many others, I set some resolutions. It is time to focus on two challenges I have been facing and have vowed to correct this year. 1) To get back on track with a more consistent exercise routine and 2) To overcome this odd food texture phobia and eat a more colorful and healthier diet. Lord only knows I need to broaden the shades of color on my plate with more fruits and vegetables. Sure, I could set a goal to loose a specific number of pounds or to go on some sort of fad diet to get there, but personally, making some lifestyle changes seem like a much better idea. Eating healthier and being more consistent with my exercising, the weight will begin to come off. Not only that, my focus is to be healthy for my hearts sake now that I have my heart issues under control, not spend so much time focusing just on a number on a scale.
Exercise seems to be one of the top resolutions that many individuals set for themselves in the new year. Overcoming an odd food texture phobia – now that is something I’m sure most people will chuckle about (in fact, most already have). Needless to say, my fruit and veggie preferences are very limited, so this year may prove to be rather interesting.
So stay tuned as I work through this years resolutions. As I’m sure many will agree, a consistent exercise routine can be a challenge, so hopefully you all can help motivate me to succeed. As for my odd food texture phobia…get ready to laugh as I am sure working through that resolution will be rather humorous at times!